Donald Trump visit to UK 'in turmoil' inspires baby blimp protest

US President Donald Trump arrives in Britain on Thursday for talks with the leader of the United States' closest ally in Europe.

Trump — on his first visit to the country after taking office — will attend a black-tie dinner hosted by Prime Minister Theresa May and have tea with Queen Elizabeth at the Windsor Castle before flying off to one of his golf clubs in Scotland.

But the red carpet treatment is likely to be overshadowed by massive protests planned by Britons opposed to Trump's presence.

More than 50,000 people have signed up to demonstrate in London, where they intend to fly an oversized balloon depicting the president as an angry baby in a diaper.

"The president of the United States of America will regretfully have the red carpet rolled out for him by this Conservative government," Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party's leader in the Westminster parliament, told lawmakers on Wednesday.

"But from the public, the welcome will be far from warm," he added, saying there would be protests across the country against Trump's "abysmal record on human rights, his repugnant attitude towards women and his disgusting treatment of minorities."

The US president has angered many in Britain in the last two years with a series of actions and pronouncements.

A YouGov poll on Wednesday showed 77 percent of Britons had an unfavorable opinion of Trump and just 50 percent thought his visit should go ahead.

Ruffling feathers

The Britons' dislike for Trump started during the 2016 presidential campaign, when Trump called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States. That prompted nearly half a million people to sign a petition calling for Trump to be banned from the UK. The proposal was debated in parliament where Trump was heavily criticized. There was no vote and no ban was imposed.

Trump then angered May and many Britons by retweeting unverified, anti-Islamic videos from Britain First, whose leaders have been convicted of hate crimes.

Read more: Britain First: Trump's 'simply racist' new Twitter pals

In January, the US president canceled a planned visit to London to open the new US Embassy, calling it a bad deal in a poor location.

Just before departing for Europe earlier this week, Trump ruffled feathers again by saying that the UK was in "turmoil," referring to the resignation of two prominent Cabinet ministers protesting Prime Minister May's Brexit policy.

Trump's itinerary will keep him out of central London on Friday, when large protests are planned.

The US Embassy has warned American citizens to keep a low profile during the visit in case protests turn violent.

A high metal fence has been erected around the US ambassador's central London residence where Trump will spend Thursday night.

No state visit

Trump's trip is part of a working visit and not a state visit, an invitation to which was extended to him personally by May just days after his inauguration.

The state visit has never actually materialized, partly due to fierce opposition to it in many quarters of Britain.

A working visit means Trump will not be hosted by the queen and will not get to spend his night at the Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle.

'Future-proof trade partnership'

May is hoping Trump's trip will boost the close ties between their two nations and help forge a future free trade deal once Britain leaves the EU.

"Our trade and investment relationship is unrivaled — we are the largest investors in each other's economies and every day a million British people go to work for US companies in the UK and a million Americans go to work for UK companies in the US," May said.

"This week we have an opportunity to deepen this unique trading relationship and begin discussions about how we will forge a strengthened, ambitious and future-proof trade partnership."

The two leaders are also expected to discuss Russia, Brexit and Middle East.

ap/rc (AP, Reuters)

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